(New York:; Basic Books:: 1996, 277 pgs., hardback. Obtain from Harper Collins. $25.00)
Baily has struck a home run in his reading of history. He identifies three revolutions that have changed the way humans think. The first revolution was geometry. Ancient people wanted to know where they were in relation to the universe. The math they developed to identify their place in the universe was geometry. The second revolution was technology, namely the clock and printing press. Pace replaced place and numbers and text were easier to work with. The result was that physics took the place of geometry as the way to define the way we think about the world. The third revolution is rooted in biology and self-organizing systems – the search for a sense of pattern to all of this place and space.
From this he concludes that the best way to think about organizations is not by examining how machines work or how physics works, but to examine biology. Now add to that the power of millions of parallel computers and we begin to understand the theory of chaos. There is a pattern to chaos if you let the computers work it out far enough from the chaos. Instead of telling the data how to line up as in physics, biology encourages the chaos to run amuck into the future. The chaos always produces a pattern.
What’s this got to do with churches? Just this. If you will think of your church as an organism instead of a machine, it will affect the way you expect it to work. If your primary image of the church is the Body of Christ, not an organizational structure, you will begin to think of it as a living, changing, organism that can not be diagramed or charted with lines and boxes. It is then just one logical step to designing systems like described in Sacred Cows Make Gourmet Burgers in which the goal is for people at all levels of the church to make autonomous decisions about ministry anytime, anywhere, and anyplace without going to a central authority for permission.
Any organism functions along one guiding principle – to be true to its DNA. Organisms exist to be what they were intended to be. In other words, the individual actions of a member of the Body of Christ should be determined by the mission, vision, and values of a particular church.
His analysis of the history of thought is very much like the one developed in Bill Easum’s and Tom Bandy’s new book to be released in the fall of 1997, Growing Spiritual Redwoods -” I think: therefore I am; I feel; therefore, I am; I compute and simulate: therefore I am.”